So, we were now well and truly into our League Two campaign. This wasn’t a dream; we really are getting to play clubs like Barnet, Morecambe and Aldershot on a weekly basis. This is what we do it for.
We also do it for great goals, and we managed to make the top three goals of the month for August with Norwegian Mo’s strike against Barnet. Honestly, I didn’t see it as that great a strike at the time, but he definitely won’t be complaining. Good on the lad.
Speaking of Aldershot, we won’t be starting our month off against them due to the number of international call-ups from the two squads (lol). That is good because we get a bit of extra time to recover from our busy August, but it also means that we will now have a busy schedule around the end of the month. You win some, you lose some…
Big Cherno called me up just before the weekend’s round of games to tell me some good news. He had been looking for a new club since leaving us in the summer and finally he had found one. AFC Wimbledon took a punt on him, which is excellent news. Well done to the lad, he deserves a good club. The news also means that we will be facing Big Cherno soon enough when we play our second game against the Wombles. Tears will be shed.
Matchday 8 – Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Exeter City v Weston-super-Mare
One thing that people will not be looking forward to, apparently, is our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie, away at Exeter City. Just 800 are predicted to come and watch the feast of football that we will serve up; lucky will they feel.
Possibly because of the effect that the lack of draw that Weston-super-Mare coming to town has on his club’s supporters, Exeter boss, Paul Ince (yes, that one) told the media before the game that he doesn’t like the way we play. It would certainly be a shame for us to play his bunch of chancers off the park, now, wouldn’t it?
Well, that’s exactly what we did, har hardy har. I might not have been capped by England (or by anyone) but I know how to set up Weston-super-Mare to get one over on mouthy managers who don’t like our style. It was, in fairness, a pretty even game for the most part. We took the lead early on thanks to a Steven Howarth shot that slid under their keeper, but both sides continued to have chances up until the half time whistle.
I told the lads to keep doing what they were doing, which worked until Daniel Nardiello finally managed to make the breakthrough for the Grecians, capitalising on a poor back pass to slip the ball past Guedes in goal. Luckily, the lads were having none of this and we hit back almost immediately. We won a corner pretty much straight from kick off, and then another, and then another. From the third corner, the ball was played out to the edge of the box by Norwegian Mo straight into the path of Luke McCullough, who absolutely leathered the ball into the back of the net. Ince looked angry on the touchline and ordered his troops forward. This was fine by us and, as they swarmed forwards in search of a late equaliser, we broke away at pace. Captain Barbosa found Gavin Massey who confidently stroked the ball home to wrap up the game and send us into the next round. Ince didn’t shake my hand. Child.
So, the excitement at St James’ Park set us up for the next round of the JPT, a home tie against Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon Town. Di Canio is an eccentric character (and we will leave it at that) and has enjoyed some ups and downs at Swindon. He won League Two during the first season of this series, but then followed that up with an immediate return to the basement division as the Robins then finished bottom of League One. This season they are struggling badly, so this could prove to be a fairly easy tie (famous last words, etc.). I am looking forward to testing my mettle against Di Canio. It should be a feisty affair.
After the Exeter game, we had a week off due to our players all swanning off for international matches. I decided to pop the telly on to see how England got on in their struggle to qualify for World Cup 2014. Their first game was against San Marino in what proved to be a cagey, low scoring affair.
The next match would, arguably, prove more difficult. England then had to travel to Warsaw to take on group leaders Poland. Only a win would do England, in reality, as they have been poor in this qualification campaign and were currently facing the prospect of a play-off.
Stuart Pearce couldn’t push his boys over the line, though. Things were looking good as England strolled to a 2-0 lead at half time thanks to goals from that classic combination of Tom Huddlestone and Phil Jones, but a late, late fight back from the Poles saw both nations share the spoils. Oh dear, Stuart…
Good news, at least, was that Dean Lawrence was fit again at last.
I’d argue that being injured will inevitably mean you find yourself on the fringes of the side, but by all means criticise me for it, email updates…
Matchday 9 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Bury
After the excitement of the international break, we were back up and running in the league as we welcomed Bury to the Woodspring. They were in poor form, having lost their last three on the bounce, but they haven’t conceded too many so this won’t necessarily be a walkover.
No walkover. Not even close. They were the better side and, yet again, our poor finishing came back to haunt us. Peter Sweeney gave them the lead with a well-worked goal in the 40th minute. Up until that point, we had looked good, but from then until the half time whistle went we looked jittery and nervous. Luckily we had half time to regroup, but it didn’t seem to have made much of a difference initially. Not until we won a corner, anyway, and Andreas Nordvik slammed home his first for the club from Captain Barbosa’s exquisite ball into the box. Both sides had chances after our equaliser, but the finishing was poor all round and, in the end, we had to share the points.
After the game, I went a-looking for some new loanees to bolster my squad (and, in particular, my English player rota). We have been making a few silly mistakes in recent weeks. Nothing too major, but it has been noticeable. So, therefore, I signed Manchester City’s Reece Wabara on a three-month loan deal. If he seems like an extra man in a position we don’t really need cover for, that is because he was literally the only one who would sign.
Matchday 10 – League Two – Morecambe v Weston-super-Mare
Our next fixture would be away to Morecambe, with good old, useful Reece Wabara joining the subs bench to allow us a full roster of players for the first time in the league this season. Good lad.
Morecambe were just behind us in the table at the moment and have had a mixed time of it recently. We have been a tad goal shy in league games and the lads at the back have the occasional gaffe in them, so this one could either be a dreadful 0-0 or a thriller.
It was, relatively speaking, a thriller. We had a shocker of a first half, made even worse because Morecambe were reduced to ten men after just ten minutes for a pretty filthy lunge. I rubbed my hands with excitement as I pictured us romping home to victory, only for Morecambe to surge up the other end and score a lovely goal. I tried to tweak things a bit, but it didn’t make a difference and, rather than getting us back in the game, we went further behind just before half time. In an attempt to get an equaliser we left ourselves short at the back, with enough space for Clayton Donaldson to stride through, round Guedes and score.
Words were yelled said at half time that don’t bear repeating, but as soon as the lads were back on the pitch you could see that what I had said yelled at them in the changing rooms had hit home. We were suddenly the first to every ball. We had space to pass into. We were creating decent chances. With just ten minutes of the second half gone, Captain Barbosa confidently finished from inside the box after an excellent ball in from Andreas Nordvik. Now our tails were up, and the lads set about frantically trying to score the equaliser. It seemed that we would grab a few goals, not just the one that we needed but, in the end, we had to settle for just the equaliser. The ball had found itself in Guedes’ hands, and he threw it out to Scott Brown on the left. Brown took the ball past two men before whipping a ball into the front post, where Gavin Massey did brilliantly to get in ahead of his marker and the keeper to plant a diving header into the net!
It was a thrilling end to the game and, actually, when you look at the statistics, we really should have come away with more from this one. They scored with both of their shots on target, whilst we had seven and yet could only manage two goals. We need to start putting these chances away or else we could be throwing away a very good season.
Matchday 11 – League Two – Accrington Stanley v Weston-super-Mare
With me mulling our striking problems over in my mind, we travelled up to play Accrington Stanley (you know who they are). Stanley were in good form and I was a bit worried that the wheels had started to come off a little bit for us. I really didn’t know how to predict what was going to happen.
I certainly didn’t expect a comfortable 0-2 win for the travelling Seagulls, but then I am a bit cynical. We took the lead early in this game via Luke McCullough’s 17th minute header and, from that point on, we never looked back. Stanley didn’t have a shot on target and in fact only managed three shots in total during the entire 90 minutes. By contrast, we peppered their goal and could (should?!) have scored a proper hat full. As it went, we had to be happy with just the two, with Steven Howarth doubling our lead early in the second half.
Amazingly, given what I was saying earlier about wheels coming off, we are still unbeaten this season, in the league at least. I really must get a grip.
Matchday 12 – League Two – Aldershot Town v Weston-super-Mare
That said, tough tests abound in this division. Our next game was against Aldershot who were having an excellent start to the season and were hot on our tails in the table. They have scored a lot of goals, but they have also shown that they can ship a few too, so we have a decent chance in this one.
Cor, we were yet again thankful for a late, late equaliser to grab us a point. Our second 2-2 draw in three games was almost more eventful than the first. The first half was drab, but the second half caught fire once the Shots managed to make the breakthrough. After that, things went downhill fast. Less than ten minutes after Aldershot opened the scoring, we had hit back through Olli Sara. We spent the next 20 minutes looking like the most likely side to score again, only for Daniel Philliskirk to nick a late goal on the break as we pushed. I was gutted and it seemed like our unbeaten run was going to be over, but, thankfully, Sara had a different view as he popped up in the 93rd minute (the exact same time as Massey’s equaliser in the Morecambe game) to nod home an unlikely second equaliser. I was so very excited and contemplated jumping into the crowd to join the celebrations, but then remembered that we were playing Aldershot away and we hadn’t just won the Champions League, so I stayed put.
With all these injury time equalisers my stress levels are through the roof. I will have to have words with the lads to try and stamp out the poor finishing that has been our chief problem this season so far.
Matchday 13 – League Two – Weston-super-Mare v Wycombe Wanderers
To round off September, we had yet another tough fixture against a team in and around the play-off places. Wycombe have had a decent start to the season, although you could say about them what I said about Aldershot – they score a fair few but they have also let in a few as well. Please, please, not another late 2-2 draw. Please. Please?
Well, that was much better, although I would prefer more goals in future to avoid the nervousness of seeing out a game at 1-0. Nevertheless, we grabbed another win at the expense of an early rival and we continued our strong start to the season. Wycombe were poor and we took full advantage, not over exerting ourselves too much but also getting the job done. Our strikers didn’t get any goals, but that didn’t matter as, just after half time, David Hruby stepped up to take a free kick and duly smashed the ball over the wall and into the net to send almost 2,900 fans home happy.
What a win to finish off September. Not everything was good news, though. As I slumped in front of my computer and checked my emails, I found this disappointing piece of news:
It looks like I won’t get to take on Di Canio after all. Also, please take note that I have been linked to the job. #flattering.
It has felt like a few results this month have gone against us, but that has all been down to our lack of cutting edge up top. Nevertheless, we are, amazingly, just one point off of the top of the table.
We have a few big games coming up next month, including my first ever game against Swindon as a football manager. It will be an emotional day, that one, for sure.
Can we keep up our early season form? Can we give Swindon a good and emotional thwopping? Come back next time to find out! Cheers!